The Spirit in Black and White: Early Twentieth-Century Pentecostals and Race Relations, 1905-1945
Boles, John B.
Doctor of Philosophy
This dissertation is a study of the influence of American racial ideology upon the formation of several Pentecostal organizations in the early twentieth century. While America’s major denominations were racially segregated just after the Civil War, these Pentecostal groups emerged at a moment in which American society was still deciding how to address the contact and conflict between different races. Racial segregation was not a settled issue at the turn of the century and Pentecostals were forced to choose whether they would accept the principles of segregation or resist by forming interracial religious communities. The project examines four different organizations, the Apostolic Faith Movement, the Azusa Street Mission, the Church of God in Christ and the Assemblies of God, which stretch from Tennessee to California, exploring their response to racial segregation and white supremacy. Each of these Pentecostal groups developed their own unique response to racial segregation. These reactions to segregation reflected the racial makeup of the organization, the surrounding society’s endorsement of segregation, and the willingness of the leadership to confront racial inequalities. Whereas previous scholarship on Pentecostalism focused primarily on denominational records and religious periodicals, resources concerned with mainly doctrinal and theological issues, this study examines newspapers and public documents from across the United States to uncover the public perception of these organizations. These sources frequently reflected on the interracial cooperation and racial ideology of these organizations, information that was absent from the denominational materials. In some instances, Pentecostals challenged the trend towards racial segregation by conducting racially integrated revivals and Bible schools or incorporating racial diversity into their denominational leadership. On other occasions, Pentecostals chose social acceptance and respectability over integration, establishing racially segregated institutions. This project provides new insights into the development of racial segregation in American society and the role of religious organizations in its development, both in resisting and acquiescing to the principles of segregation.